State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky

Seth Curry, Duke’s leader despite being hobbled

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ATLANTA – Seth Curry is not healthy right now.

Before we get into the 23 points he scored or the four free throws he hit in the final two minutes to help seal No. 9 Duke’s 75-68 win over No. 3 Kentucky on Tuesday night, that much needs to be stated.

Seth Curry isn’t playing at 100%. He’s got a lower leg injury to his right leg that has kept him out of all but four practices, according to Mike Krzyzewski, “and they’ve been like half practices.” If he’s not practicing, than that means he’s not in playing shape. How can he be if he’s only made it halfway through four practices this year?

And despite all of that, Curry put on one of the most impressive performances of his Duke career against the Wildcats. 23 points. 7-for-14 from the floor. Three threes. No turnovers. In a team-high 34 minutes. Against the No. 3 team in the country.

Not bad for a guy that isn’t practicing, isn’t in shape — Coach K said he’s “shocked at the level of his conditioning” — and isn’t healthy.

“He’s put a lot of work into his game, and that’s why I’m down on the fact that he was hurt,” Coach K said. “He’s primed for an amazing year, and he had an amazing game tonight.”

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the injury for Curry is that no one seems to know what exactly is wrong with him. There’s no name that’s been given for it. He has a pain. In his leg. In the shin area. And it hurts. That’s about all we know, but an undiagnosed shin pain isn’t going to keep Alex Poythress from trying to exploit a mismatch against Curry or prevent Archie Goodwin from putting his head down and trying to beat Curry off the dribble. A limp and a compression sleeve won’t keep Julius Mays from pressuring defensively or Nerlens Noel from trying to block his shot.

And Curry not only thrived, but he played his best late in the game.

“Seth was terrific. I think he was the difference in the game,” Coach K said. “I thought he kind of took control of the game. He wanted the ball in his hands and he made veteran, tough plays down the stretch.”

That’s an important piece of the puzzle for the Blue Devils, as the rest of their rotation seems to be coming together quite nicely. Mason Plumlee was absolutely dominant in the paint before getting into foul trouble and losing some of his aggressiveness. Rasheed Sulaimon struggled with his shot early in the game, but he hit two huge threes in Duke’s game-changing 21-7 run and finished the game with six boards, five assists and no turnovers while playing valiant defense on the wing. Quinn Cook provided a spark off the bench and a steady-hand at the point while Ryan Kelly blocked a few shots and hit a couple of jumpers.

And then there’s Curry, to make the tough, veteran plays down the stretch.

The winning plays.

Now just imagine what happens when he gets healthy.


Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)